Club Review: Tom Goss and Liz De Roche in “Double Trouble”

September 18, 2022 | By

The dog days of summer are extending into September in New York City cabaret this year.  Still recovering from the pandemic, isolation, distancing, masks and (now) monkey pox, it is not the most prolific season for performance and night life in the city.  The Duplex is out of commission and other bastions of New York night life are offering drastically diminished calendars of events.  All of which led me to the end of Christopher Street near the piers to a site that for over 30 years was the home of The Dug Out, a staple of the Village bar scene that was replaced, for close to 20 years, by Rockbar, a gay bar in which a tiny corner was reserved for singers and drag queens and the like to perform for an audience of bar and Village regulars and hardy and or cruising souls who come from other parts of town.  The occasion was the New York City leg of an East Coast tour by singer/ songwriters Tom Goss and (Liz) De Roche called Double Trouble. I had seen Goss in solo shows on previous visits to Don’t Tell Mama and The Duplex but he and his partner for the evening really seemed to relish the opportunity to “rough it” in this old school way with a small stage, no lights, minimal (yet adequate) sound, some bar stools, and a mostly standing audience.  Armed with a couple of instruments, two fine voices, and their irrepressible charm and good humor, they captivated the intimate, crowded room for an hour of original material plus a few choice covers.   

Goss and De Roche

They literally shared the stage for the entire evening, playing and singing together on each song. The blend of their voices was a magical delight to behold, and Goss on guitar and De Roche on electric keyboard provided all the musical support needed, each subtly enriching the other’s performance so that even familiar songs were made fresh and new. Their palpable chemistry radiated from the stage and their between song patter was fresh, funny, and felt spontaneous throughout; their loose, easygoing manner in no way undermined their serious musicianship and vocal talent.  

The set opened with a terrific original called “Berlin” (Goss, Ian Carmichael) a haunting tale of a brief, illicit affair consummated while away from home.  Next was De Roche’s “GTWIWTG (Going the Way I Want It to Go),” a rhythmic dance tune with especially inventive harmonies and counterpoint between the two singers. 

Another Goss original followed—the pop/rockabilly confection about the ups and downs of the music industry, “Wait,” with great guitar and a sly, world-weary performance of his bitter/bouncy lyrics—“…they said wait, just another day. You got to write you that perfect song, sell your soul, cash your check, and move on.” Revealing that the somewhat risqué video for his next song was filmed right there at Rockbar, he jumped into “Nerdy Bear,” one of his most crowd-pleasing creations. De Roche then took the lead on “Big Let Down” (Goss, Nancy Eddy) and her delicate, fragile vocals were the perfect sound for the sad contemplation of a failed relationship. She has a classic, pop/folk sound that can reveal surprising strength when the lyric calls for it. Goss’s complementary vocal was perfect.  

Tom Goss

“Something Beautiful” (Goss, Susan Ruth) showcased not only the songwriter’s expressive voice, but his plainspoken poetry in the personal dissection of modern love.  De Roche’s backing vocal added a lovely vulnerability to the sound. She then confessed that she envied the variety of her partner’s material because she found herself centering a lot of the time on loss and heartbreak. In fact, she described her process for writing “Stay”—she sat down at the piano and her anxiety and depression wrote the song for her. The combination of voices and the insistent rhythms driving the melody set it apart from her other sad observations in song. The single recording of “Breath and Sound” (Goss), sung with Matt Alber, is a particular favorite of mine. But Goss’s version with De Roche matched it as it highlighted another of his distinct, modern reworkings of classic love song tropes, describing that gap between two people caught up in the waltz of first meeting.  De Roche got to rock out a little bit on “Heartbeat” (De Roche, Goss), its irresistible beat and percussive delivery taking its cue from the “beat” of the title. 

That feel was developed further with Goss’s raw guitar work on their surprisingly full-throated cover of “Proud Mary” (John Fogerty) that developed into a raucous sing-along by the mostly male and bear-ish crowd. Goss debuted a fantastic new original song called “Enemy of Good” that was a riveting and timely pop anthem. In the memorable “One Thing Missing” (Goss, Carmichael), the singer put down his guitar and with mic in hand went into the audience as he transformed them into a choir echoing his romantic plea of “I wish you were here…oh, oh, oh…I wish you were here,” at the same time seeming to absorb the energy of the connection he had forged with the crowd.  Another surprise cover, one a bit more apropos for a gay bar, followed as the pair tackled Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (Freddie Perren, Dino Fekaris) and made it their own with a guitar-driven arrangement that moved the song firmly into pop and away from R&B as their voices captured every emotional punch of the original.  They brought up Rockbar regular, singer Kyle Motsinger, from the audience to offer a vocal assist on the second half.  The show was brought to a rousing finale with Goss’s biggest hit, “Bears” (Goss), but I am sure the audience would have happily stayed at least another hour to experience the high energy and warm feelings the duo created.

Liz De Roche

Tom Goss has never sounded better, and he looks cuter than ever.  The unassuming confidence and power of his vocals and playing were consistently on display.  It was a star turn in every way.  De Roche was new to me but was a welcome addition especially when they put their voices together in inventive, complex harmonies and supportive backing that was thrilling.  On her own, the singer needs to pay more attention to mic placement and diction. On a few of her original numbers the lyrics were hard to make out, a situation not helped by her mouth being covered by the microphone so we couldn’t see her lips. It is a common mistake singers make but it hurt the enjoyment of her moments in the spotlight. 

Double Trouble was a feel-good triumph that never failed to entertain.  I hope that Tom Goss and De Roche decide to make more frequent visits to this Coast from their California homes.  They each have several recordings available at all the usual outlets, and they have an EP together that features some of the material they performed at Rockbar. His new single will be released on September 23rd.

***

Presented at Rockbar on September 2

Category: News / Reviews / Commentary, Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”

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